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Sleep and Aging

Many things change as you age. Energy is harder to come by. Your physical strength may lapse. It may be harder to concentrate. You may even be rocked by a desire to sit on your porch and yell at punks who won’t keep off your lawn. The quality and duration of your sleep will also likely change as you age.

One thing that will not change is the quantity of sleep you need to function. Adults need 7-9 hours of nightly sleep throughout adulthood in order to function at optimum levels. It’s important to note that difficulty finding sleep or chronic daytime fatigue are not normal at any age.

Studies have shown the elderly and middle-aged people spend less time in deep sleep than younger adults. Reports point to an decrease in the ease of falling asleep after 65. A multitude of factors contribute to increased difficulty finding deep restful sleep as we age. These factors include:

  • Decreased secretion of the hormones that govern the sleep/wake cycle
  • Changes in body temperature
  • Decreased exposure to natural light
  • Physical conditions the interfere with sleep, like Periodic Limb Movements Disorder, Restless Legs Syndrome, and pain
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Medications
  • Use of substances like caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine

Some tips for improving your sleep include:

  • Exercise regularly, but avoid strenuous physical activity within three hours of bedtime.
  • Limit naps to 30 minutes or less and take then in the early afternoon
  • Take a walk in the afternoon/or early evening to get some sunlight
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine, and limit liquid intake in the evenings
  • Keep to a regular, consistent sleep schedule. Go to bed the same time every night and wake up the same time every morning

 

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